I visited my parents at the weekend and we went for a day out at Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre. I have done falconry before and it was fun to do it for a second time. The centre was quite a cool place, being designed primarily as a sanctuary for the birds. They were clearly well looked after and there were a lot of birds there – which meant I could take a lot of photos:
Unfortunately I forgot to write down what species they are so could only remember some of them! I found it interesting that some of the owls were happy to just sit there and look around them, but some of them were constantly hopping around. Often it seemed to be the smaller ones which were more active, and they kind of reminded me of small yappy dogs.
After having a look at the birds at the centre, everyone in the group (six of us) was given a bird which we held on our arm and walked around the local woods with. I got a Bengali Eagle Owl called Roxie:
She was generally a nice-natured bird, although she did hiss a lot when I tried to stroke her. From that point on, we just stuck to taking photos. She was happy to model for the photos though and I managed to get several close-up shots which I was happy with.
The centre lies in ancient woodland which are owned and protected by the people who run the centre. The woodlands have been completely rejuvenated in the past couple of years, with many species of animal now living there. There is a herd of fallow deer which I saw several times as we walked round the woods. They twice crossed the path about fifty metres in front of us and then ran away in to the trees. I tried to take photos of them, but it is very difficult to zoom and focus on a herd of deer whilst simultaneously balancing a large owl on your arm!
This photo was the best I could get, but you can at least the deer in it (and hopefully see how difficult it was to focus on the deer with so much undergrowth in the way!). I really liked the ethos behind the centre and it was very similar to what I wrote my undergrad dissertation on. For that I used examples from Costa Rica, because I couldn’t find any in the UK, but I wish I had known about this place at the time.
Walking around with Roxie the owl was quite fun, as you got to see the owl close up and you would begin to notice little behavioural things it would do, like tilting it’s head or shuffling it’s feet, which gave it a character and personality.
The next part of the day was flying a Harris Hawk from a post to your hand. It was enjoyable and also very easy, as the bird does all the work. All you have to do is stand there with your hand in the air.
After a couple of times flying them, the session ended and we walking back through the woods to leave. One thing I noticed was that, although deer were plentiful, there did not seem to be many other birds living in the woods. But considering that all of the birds of prey in the centre are let out to fly around the woods, I can imagine why!